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[Review] Noah Cyrus @ 170 Russell, Melbourne 20/07/2023

Review By Emily White

A dreary winter’s night in Melbourne is not the ideal scene for an international pop sensation to take the stage. However, something about the cold and misty pavement lit up by slow moving, golden headlights set the perfect mood for an exquisite night of melodic storytelling. Seeing Noah Cyrus live has been a long time coming for her allegiance of fans, many of whom have followed the star since her musical debut at only sixteen years old. Seven years on and Noah has finally made her Australian debut with the Hardest Part Tour, in light of her 2022 album release. Joined for the first time by her long-term collaborator and friend – Australian songwriter and producer PJ Harding – it was to be a night of firsts, and an absolute blessing to witness.

 Being met with one of the warmest welcomes I had ever seen for a support act, it is clear PJ Harding has built himself a fan base, almost entirely made up of gen z women. Certainly not the expected crowd for a lowkey, country-esque, songwriter, yet it was delightful to know that tonight was not about the glitz and glam of a pop concert – the fans had undoubtably gathered for the shared love of music.  

Supported by only a steel string guitar and stagnant, golden lighting, the focus was on the storytelling. Opening the set with the first track off his recent EP; A Dangerous Thing set the tone for his brief, yet striking discography. PJ’s voice is warm and familiar, the perfect delivery when lyricism is the focus of the set. PJ is not a seasoned live performer, spending more time in the studio, yet he has become so supremely popular with Noah’s fan base. For the entirety of his set the room stood still, his touches of husky falsetto silencing the sold-out nightclub. Within a thirty-minute set PJ had easily sold his solo EP, To Fall Asleep, after playing its entirety.

The warmth of his tear-jerking ballads paired with crystal clear execution induced goosebumps throughout the room. A highlight of the set was the album’s title track, To Fall Asleep. Described as a song about the simplicity and calm that comes with family, more specifically in his role as a father. The Way It Felt to Love You is another masterpiece, filled with impressively concise, yet abstract imagery through metaphors, the song manifests itself visually in the mind of the listener.

‘It never rains in LA till it pours, and now the water’s slowly rising at my door. That’s the way it felt to love you’.

 Being lucky enough to hear an unreleased track, There Was a Song, expresses the joy that comes with being able to perfectly express emotion through music in a way which words cannot. Bringing the set to a close, PJ began to work the collective voice of the room in an angsty singalong, The Machine. Evoking a sense of confidence and self-assurance in those yelling ‘Fuck you, I’m gonna do it anyway’, the crowd was more than prepared for the night’s headliner to make her debut. 

 Thirty minutes felt like a lifetime waiting for Noah to take the stage – made all the more exciting as her name appeared, illuminated by golden flames. The venue becoming more tightly packed with every passing minute. I couldn’t help but notice the striking way golden light bounced from the metal high hats and towards the freestanding mic. A high level of class and glamour had been established long before Noah’s arrival.

Noah (Stand Still), the opening track from her new LP, fittingly opened the show. A gorgeous ethereal soundscape cemented by a three-piece live band. Noah’s casual entrance to the stage came across as anything but mundane. Her stunning lace embellished, sheer white dress can only be described as angelic.  Contrastingly, Noah’s lyrics come from a much darker lens, singing ‘When I turned 20, I was overcome with the thought that I might not turn 21’.  The remaining tracks follow similar themes of struggling mental health and relationships, all with an undertone not of defeat, but of growth and persistence. Mr. Percocet and Unfinished introduced the audience to the powerhouse live vocals that were to be expected for the rest of the night, as well as Noah’s flawless crowd work and authentic, caring demeaner.

Imagery of grassy meadows backed the magical indie pop sound throughout the set, gradually darkening from day to night, coinciding with the lyrical themes becoming progressively darker. Making a nod towards her long-time collaborator PJ Harding, the audience was taken back to Noah’s first album with Liar. The End of Everything is a once in a lifetime album – perfectly crafted, no song lesser than the other. Personally, I spent much of my final year of high school listening to this album from start to end, blasting through the car on my first solo drives; I can expect that much of the crowd did too. Hearing these tracks live for the first time felt like a metaphorical bookend to that phase of life, for both Noah and her fans who have grown by her side.

Powering through her short, yet sweet discography, All Three, I Just Want a Lover, and her first ever single, Again, all made the cut. ‘This song confronted the sad in myself. The fear that anyone I was close to would get up and leave at any moment’. The energy came to a halt as an acoustic section of the night began with My Side of The Bed; a highly relatable, yet deeply personal ballad about having trust and abandonment issues in relationships. The star was met with dead silence and undivided attention as she reintroduced PJ for their second ever time performing as a duo. The small set comprised of acoustic tracks You Belong to Somebody Else, Cannonball, Dear August, The Best of You, and The Worst of You.

I Got So High That I Saw Jesus bought with it a complete change of mood, as the poignant song about the end of the world transformed the venue into a gospel session. The fan favourite saw arms and bodies swaying in perfect synchronicity, the lyrics ringing through the sea of people. Blue smoke filled the room as the night began to come to its end. Hardest Part was without a doubt the standout performance of the night – with booming drums and bass creating a heart wrenching drama through the choruses, and slow solemn guitar lacing the verses. The highlight however was the vocals that seemed as though they had been savoured for this moment. Sounding like a choir of angels, shivers shot down the spines of the crowd. It is no wonder Noah has made a name for herself as a Grammy Award Nominated artist at age twenty-three, she is truly a musical treasure.

With her fans desperate for more, Noah returned to the stage as swiftly as she had departed. Begging for ‘one more song’, we were lucky enough to receive three of the best. Lonely, Make Me (Cry), and The End of Everything left not a dry eye in the room.

I had read that Noah’s live performances will stay with you long after her shows… and this is entirely true. Growing up in the limelight takes a toll on the strongest of people, and there is no hiding the pain and anguish that Noah has felt through her young adult life. However, after spending the night with the star, it is clear she has come through stronger than ever; carrying both herself, and her adoring fans who have found so much solace in her music.

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[Review] The 1975 @ Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne 11/04/2023

Review By Nikki Eenik

I was blessed to be able to see the “Best Band in The World”; The 1975 (according to The 1975 front man Matty Healy) during their first Melbourne show at Rod Laver Arena on Tuesday night. Turns out, as revealed during the show, Matty Healy used to live in Melbourne – information very much not known. So now you know! Hometown show!

A note before I continue! If you are an epileptic, do not go and see this show, there is a lot (and I mean, a lot of strobe). Live through this review and their Spotify repertoire instead. J

If you’ve read any of my previous reviews, or if you know me in real life, you’ll know I’m something of a Sad-Girl-Pop Connoisseur. So, having Wallice, as an opener was an especially tasty treat. Wallice is the alias of Los Angeles born-and-raised singer-songwriter, Wallice Hana Watanabe. She is described on The 1975’s event-page as “indie-pop wunderkind”, and has been described in NME as a “future alt-pop hero”. Clearly, she is a hot up-and-comer, and everybody knows it. She has the cutest aesthetic I’ve ever seen at such a large stadium show. Cowgirl hats, Americana-esque patterns and cuts are all the norm for Wallice’s wardrobe. Tonight, she is donning a mini-skirt with a deep purple crop-top; complete with ruffles, puffy shoulders and starched buttons. Very Founding-Fathers-Meets-Indie-Darling-Core. I’m obsessed. As a Japanese woman, it is so clear that Watanabe embraces and celebrates her Asian heritage – because her entire backing band are also all Asian femme-presenting musicians. During her final number, smash hit 23, she shreds guitar back-to-back with her other guitarist and bassist. It’s such a wonderful celebration of feminity. Seeing girls in skirts shredding up a storm made me feel a special kind of powerful, it spoke to Little Me who had seen far-too-few women playing for huge crowds, in all their hyper-femme glory. We were treated to an almost 40-minute set, with a personal favourite, Best Friend, and Funeral – “This next song is Funeral and it’s my favourite song I’ve ever made!” Watanabe gleefully proclaimed before launching into her penultimate musical number. Consider Wallice Sad-Indie-Girl-Pop Expert Approved.

Front-man Matty Healy begins the set alone, after a video plays on all four of Rod Laver’s massive projection screens of him meandering out of the greenroom – glass of wine in hand. A single spotlight lights up the set, a stripped-down version of their concert-concept; a living room, complete with coffee table and lamp, as opposed to an entire house which can be spotted in the European and North American legs of the tour. The girl behind me begins screaming so intensely at the idea of Healy coming on stage, her friend has to hold her up. “We’ve been exploring being a man, being famous, being obnoxious”, Healy begins, leisurely reclining on the sofa. “This show, this concept, is a call for something sincere and direct”. Be My Mistake is such a beautiful opener to the set. Performed stripped down, with just an acoustic guitar, with harmonics courtesy of all those in attendance. Healy smiles listening to an entire stadium sing along with him; You do make me hard/ But she makes me weak.

Then the rest of the band comes out, and wow are they an absolutely ferocious unit. So musically tight, each providing such a crucial musical element to the show. I couldn’t imagine even being one-man down. Speaking of one man. The 1975 saxophonist, John Waugh, if you’re reading this review, call me on 04** *** ***. This man was the absolute highlight of the night for me. He was killing it, improvising and layering on top of everything from tear-jerking ballads to undeniable bops, jumping from alto saxophone, to clarinet, to tenor saxophone and back again. My jaw is still on the floor. But every member of the band is stellar, and we are treated to a new member for this tour, female guitarist Polly Money. She’s amazing, I hope she stays on for many tours to come.

As Healy winds his way through cigarettes, glasses of wine, and flasks of whiskey, the band winds their way through 6 albums worth of music in 2-hour absolute extravaganza. A feast for the senses, if you will. I was chuckling at Healy’s Morrissey-esque dancing, feeling my friend start to cry at Fallingforyou and spellbound by a never-before-heard arrangement of Paris. The band is also not afraid to play instrumental tracks like An Encounter. They’re taking us on a ride.

Healy proclaims, “There’s quite a lot of people here, isn’t there?” And he’s met with screams of joy. after being the perfect cocktail of pleased and shocked. In response he yells back “We are the best looking band from Manchester!” (No one tell Liam Gallagher) While this fact is completely not-provable by science, it is absolutely provable that there are some hardcore fans in the building tonight. The camera, when not focussed on the band – distorted video, black-and-white avante garde meets 70’s psychedelic lag makes it seem like there are trails following each of the musicians, is completely obsessed with this one fan. Front-and-centre, pushed against the barricade, sweaty, screaming every word, wearing one of the best pieces of merch currently on the market – a shirt that reads, Your Girlfriend’s Favourite Band. While I’m nowhere at her level, and was simply a casual listener, I fell in love with songs like I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes) and was possessed by groove to boogie along as much as my chair would allow.

Something I am though, is a Tumblr Teen. So when, at the end of the show, Healy slurs into the mic, “Does anyone remember 2013?” I know what’s coming. I feel my brain chemistry change. I am 14 years old again, editing my Tumblr html code, after a hard day of being sad and sweaty in Year 9 or whatever. “It feels like ya never left” And he’s right, as much as I try to delete the photos of my Facebook, the side-fringe-having-heavy-eyeliner-wearing teenage girl is alive and well under my front-fringe and septum piercing. The band finishes with Sex, and that teenage girl comes to the front. The Tumblr Girls are singing this time, some of the band’s later fans not understanding the vice grip The 1975’s 2013 self-titled album had on us, culturally. But I understand. We understand. What a cathartic moment.

And then, it ends. No encore, no nothing. Done. The end is marked only by Healy, “Give it up for the World’s Greatest Band, The 1975. We love you!” Walking out in a swarm of former early-Internet teens, new tiktok fans and goths. I am bleary-eyed from too much light exposure, but feel a side-fringe sized weight lifted from my shoulders.

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[Review] Aurora @ Palais Theatre, Melbourne 09/3/2023

Aurora is truly one of the most triumphant artist of our generation, and on the 9th of March I, along with a sold out Palais Theatre audience, were humbled to be in her presence. The best way I can describe Aurora’s performance was that of a re birth, as she used her music to gently guided us to unleash our inner animal, let go of societal judgement, and embrace the raw experiencing of being human. However, I get ahead of myself! Let’s start from the beginning.

I entered the charming Palais venue with deep fondness, as I am well acquainted with its well-worn walls and earthy green carpet. When the support act Blusher made their way onto the stage, I thought their youthful energy paired perfectly with the venue’s vintage aesthetic. Newness was meeting with tradition, and I was loving the ambiance that this was creating. The Palais stage has welcomed countless up and coming artists and the trio of women that make up Blushers certainly left no crumbs; making their mark from the moment their hands touched the mics. Blushers performed with such finesse, confidence, and hypnotic power, that their 30 minute set felt like a delicious glimpse into what a full length Blusher show may look like, and you best believe that I will be in attendance for it. As someone who doesn’t listen to a lot of pop, Blushers truly won me over. Their use of the silky, dream like synth and hard hitting bass became part of what makes their sound so irrespirable. Their performance of Dead End, a song that celebrates that celebrates youth and ‘going out on a Tuesday’, had everyone out of their seats, myself included. Seeing these three powerhouse women grooving on stage with their synchronized dance moves made it impossible to resist doing the same, and I definitely saw a few strangers pull out some moves together. Finishing their set with Softly Spoken, this spicy track sealed Blushers as a band that aren’t afraid to pair their sweet melodies with biting, unafraid lyricism. This duality is clearly a signature aspect of Blushers that is quickly becoming part of their appeal and growing fan base. One of the sweetest moments of the night was when they gave a shout out to their devout fan, who has been at all of their performances. I loved to see the growing relationship they have with their fans, despite this being their debut tour. If the love the crowd had for Blushers is anything to go by, I would say that this trio is on their way to global pop domination.

After a half hour interval, Aurora’s entrance could not have been met with a more captivated attention. All eyes were on the dimly lit, misty stage. Three thousand breaths were being held, as we watched this tiny figure make her way to the front of the stage. I was six rows from the front, and I can safely say that seeing Aurora stare out into the crowd, shrouded in a dark silhouette, was one of the most hauntingly beautiful images I’ve ever seen on stage. And so, just like that, an hour and a half of pure, spellbinding magic was set into motion, with Aurora as our trusted enchantress.    

After having a few second to soak in Aurora’s presence, her dark anthem Heathens kicked off the night; snapping the audience out of their mystified spell, and plunging us into a cosmic darkness that made me want to break free of my human form and become pure matter. Heathens acted as an introduction to what kind of instrumental, vocal, and performative experience we could expect from tonight’s show:

A fusion of angelic yearning, and animalistic chaos.

With each song that Aurora performed, I could not help but notice how her whole body moved to the music. From her ballerina like twirling, to her wolfish crawling and crouching, to the way her fingers delicately danced in response to each note, it was as if she were composing the pieces right in front of us and throwing her whole self into it. It wasn’t hard to see just how much of Aurora’s soul exists in each song.

The majesty of this performance, combined with her reflective talking segments on life, love, and the beauty and the oddities of mankind, made the night felt like a communal un shedding of pain and suffering. To be there in that room, being serenaded by ethereal harmonies and watching people dance their way through songs that deal with respecting nature, and respecting the things we don’t understand, was more than my little brain could comprehend. I think I will be comprehending it for a long time. My favourite performance was definitely Infections of a Different Kind, as it displayed the rawness of Aurora’s vocal abilities on a new level. There was such beautiful range to Aurora’s song choices that left the audience with no idea of where the night was headed. The performance of the dark, cinematic Churchyard shook every persons souls, whilst Exist for Love comforted us in it’s lilting blend of three part harmonies and pristine guitar accompaniment.

 To me, Aurora is one woman who both channels The Sublime, and crafts a performance that is expansive and utopian in it’s message and aesthetic. The way that Aurora appeared to us was almost like an other worldly being; dressed in all white, blessing us with anecdotes that celebrated uniqueness, and stories of acceptance and kindness. Ultimately, Aurora’s show gave new meaning to the title of her latest album called The Gods We Can Touch, for she is our all inclusive and all accepting voice of truth and reason; a vision of the hope, the change, and the courage that this little old world relies on in order to be nurtured and thrive. Finishing off the night with Cure For Me, a song that champions her defiantly positive message of self love, I left that night feeling a little lighter and happier in myself, and optimistic about the world and people around me. I guess that is the power of Aurora, and I cannot wait until she returns to Melbourne.

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[Review] girl in red @ 170 Russell, Melbourne 25/01/2023

girl in red’s live concert was far from a one-woman-show – it was the unwavering energy of the fans, the band, and Marie herself, that when combined created the perfect storm. ‘Do you listen to girl in red?’ – the colloquialism that has become part of mainstream queer culture was truly bought to life with the night boasting hand-drawn tattoos, candy necklaces and many sets of locked lips. 

To warm up the eagerly awaiting crowd, many of whom had braved the concrete outside ‘Billboard’ nightclub for longer than ten hours, was Betty Taylor; the Sunshine Coast duo whose music has, until now, been an underground secret. The light blue wash over the two freestanding mics set the scene for the beautifully haunting harmonies that were to come. For the Indie pop rock band, fronted by Sophie Patrick and Kayla Smart, this was their first performance outside of their home state, a one-off, stripped back acoustic show. It would have been impossible to tell this was a first for the pair, as they delivered perfect synchronicity in both their vocals, and guitar accompaniment.

Lyrically, Betty Taylor was the perfect opening act for the young, queer crowd, as they sung heart-wrenching lyrics of love and loss. Lyrics such as ‘fuck you for forever hurting me’, sung in such smooth, calming tones felt straight out of a romance film, or music for walking in the rain. The heartache was universal.

Including snippets of relatable chit-chat with the crowd, the pair moved into Glitter and Bullshit, a song ‘about a man’, which was closely followed by a member of the crowd responding with ‘fuck men’. The interaction remained raw and playful from beginning to end.

The remainder of the set persisted as gorgeously modest, with dreamy, husky vocals and retro feel of electric guitar. Stalling, the first and only released Betty Taylor song left the crowd enchanted by the odd nostalgia, and the hypnotic way in which the pair moved with such synchronicity – as if they just knew how the music needed to be expressed in the body. Sweeping lights closed out the performance, illuminating the beautiful sea of humans who were now ready to share an extraordinary night together. 

 The heat of a thousand bodies grew from the back of the venue as Norwegian, indie pop singer-songwriter Marie Ulven Ringheim made her way to the stage. The opening night of the Australian leg of the If I Could Make It Go Quiet Tour, was about to kick off with an entirely sold-out show. The screams of the crowd were deafening as she made her way onto the stage, repetitively mumbling ‘Melbourne’. The room began to silence, adoring fans glued to her every move.

It all began with a violent hit of the drums – and suddenly the room erupted into absolute chaos. The deep, steady bass line of You Stupid Bitch rocking the room like a heartbeat working overtime. The indie-rock hit was the perfect way to kick off what was going to be a wild night, reminiscent of a 90s grunge band paired with deeply relatable lyrics about struggles with sexuality and mental health. The high energy of a room filled with passionate young people paired with frantic flashing lights was suggestive of the underlying themes of manic mental health. Marie left every piece of herself on stage from the absolute outset. Screaming the lyrics in unison with her fans and jumping until you could see the sweat rolling down her face, girl in red is a spectacle born for the stage.

It would be remiss not to mention the heat of the five-piece backing band that accompanied the entire length of the show. All just as high-energy as Marie herself, their musicality was both grunge and carefree, yet professional and melodic. The conclusion of the first song began what was a running theme of the show – a juxtaposing jump between feverish performance and casual conversation. The contrast of her hilarious rambles in a dimly lit room and the rockstar present during the songs showed the versatility of girl in red’s performance and the likely reason behind the passion of her adoring fans.

Following the energy of the first song, girls did not disappoint. Hearing the certified gold single live for the first time would have been a long time coming for this room of young queer women. The unashamed lyrics dealing with coming to terms with sexuality are a breath of fresh air in today’s heteronormative society.

A beautiful change of pace, ‘.’ was played largely acoustically, with a kick drum accompaniment. An absolute stand-out lyrically, the words ‘It’s been so hard ever since you broke my heart’ are universal and were clearly shared by all who were lucky enough to be singing them. During We Fell in Love in October there was a deepening of connection between Marie and the crowd as the room fell silent, mumbling ‘my girl, my girl, you will be my girl’. To have a room of a thousand people at your fingertips is the work of a true artist.

A change of pace came with the next set of songs as we were instructed to ‘pretend it’s sunny outside and we’re at a festival’; and it did indeed feel that way with everyone giving themselves fully to the music during I’ll Call You Mine, and the following ‘song about being horny’ hornylovesickness. The obedience of the crowd in waving their arms in unison and singing every lyric was all in the lead up to the final portion of the show.

The song Serotonin was beautifully poetic, as the crowd was filled head to toe with the hormone; a complete contradiction to the lyrics ‘I’m running low on serotonin’. At this point Marie was ready to literally throw herself into the crowd, stage diving into the arms of her fans during bad idea! – bringing a level of energy to the tracks that cannot be replicated without this high level of interaction.

The set closed out with midnight love and Did You Come? before the last hurrah; a wall of death during i wanna be your girlfriend.  Marie left the crowd with all they could have wanted, jumping into the mosh pit and dancing through the entire song alongside her adoring fans, who she then soaked with her drink bottle before a well-deserved mic drop.

Being covered in water, sweat and copious amounts of glitter – a night at girl in red is one which audiences will take home with them… literally.

 

Be sure to catch girl in red in their final Australian performances at Laneway festival:

Brisbane Feb 4

Sydney Feb 5

Adelaide Feb 10

Melbourne Feb 11

Perth Feb 12

Tickets available here

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